Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin) – A perfectly quirky movie sets up one of those improbable settings and then lets the actors run with it.  Fortunately, the cast is up to the task despite the fact that the actor you’d expect to be most over-the-top (Carell) plays its straight while the others perform in a wonderful ensemble.  This is really just a “road trip” movie in the Chevy Chase Vacation genre but with every character more troubled and deluded than the next.  Kinnear is a motivational speaker without an audience or a following for his nine-step program for “winners.”  Carell is the self-proclaimed world’s foremost expert on Proust without a job and without the book deal that his primary adversary just got, leading him to a failed suicide attempt.  Collette is Carell’s sister, the frustrated housewife with the angry son and the “plain Jane” seven-year-old daughter who dreams of being a pageant queen (starting with the “Little Miss Sunshine” contest).  Finally, Arkin plays the stereotyped dirty old man grandfather who is the granddaughter’s teacher and bane of his son’s existence.   When young Olive slides into a slot in the pageant when the winner of a local contest is stripped of her crown for taking diet pills, the dysfunctional family embarks from their home in New Mexico for the “big event” at a cheap hotel in Redondo Beach, California.  The Volkswagen “bus” has a dead clutch, grandpa dies either from old age or the heroin he takes regularly, and the son who won’t talk freaks when his dream of being a pilot is shattered when he finds out he’s color blind.   If that isn’t bizarre enough, what follows is slapstick, heartwarming, improbable, exploitive, fun and modestly satisfying.  It’s a low-budget, art-house movie that’ll have you laughing and shaking your head but feeling like it was worth the hour-and-forty-five-minutes.

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